Monday, June 28, 2010

When it is ready....

Many an aspiring writer hears it all the time that the most important thing to present to an agent or editor is a perfect query letter. It is true but it is not the most important single thing in your arsenal to gain an acceptance. There is an entire package of components that make up a proposal that will shine.

But first and foremost is your manuscript. You want your beginning sentences to hook the reader. You want clear, tight writing, vivid narrative, and strong dialogue. This blog is not going to teach you writing skills. Instead I only want to encourage you to make sure before you send out your proposal with sample chapters that your manuscript is absolutely, undeniably ready.

How do you know when your manuscript it ready? I will let you make some comments in that regard. It will be interesting to see what readers of InSpire have to say. For me personally, it is when I know I have revised all I can and that the storyline flows without pause or interruption, and when all the questions readers would ask have been answered.

What about you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rejection as a Stepping Stone

On a recent forum post on an aspiring writer wrote about her feelings and view on rejections. I thought I would share my response to her in hopes that it will encourage those of you that are in the doldrums.

Dear Cowgirl Poet,

As I read your post, my heart went out to you. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle. Please be encouraged, and know that the piece on rejection that you wrote may only be temporary. There are two things a Christian writer must have in order to succeed besides a tough skin --- persistence and patience. Persistence is continuing to write, improve the craft, send out queries. Patience comes out of humility to God --- turning over your writing career into His hands.

You wrote that rejection is a 'non-stop part of a writer's life'. It is true for the moment. You will face rejections. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, rejections will fall to the wayside. Oh, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something make you a better writer, to make your manuscript the best it can be, and to put your work into the right hands.

I had been writing for several years and found a print on demand company to publish my first three novels. Easy. They'll accept any book that comes their way. There were downsides to pod, and they almost, if I had allowed them, defeated my career. I refused to give in, and prayed that God would release the works of my hands out of the hands of ungodly men. A few weeks later I had my contracts canceled, and it was one of the best things to happen to me.

I started a new historical, and thought I had finished it. So I started sending out queries. One Christian agent who I highly respect told me 'In my opinion, this is not finished'. Those were all the words he gave me. Of course I wished he had said more, but I had to revisit the manuscript.

Then one July day, a year later, I sat down at my desk and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a little verse sitting in a frame on my desk that says ' Commit your work to the Lord'. And so, that is what I did. If He wanted this novel published, it would be and I had to be patient for the right door to open.

Fifteen minutes later I saw on Brandilyn Collins' blog that her friend Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press, and that they were starting a fiction line. Barbara was only announcing it on Brandilyn's blog at the time. Historical fiction was one of the genres she was looking for. I sent her a query and she requested the manuscript.

I was offered a contract and 'Surrender the Wind' came out in August 09. In November I was offered representation. Last week I signed again with Abingdon for a three-book series. Oh, and one of the books I had began writing as a stand-alone Barbara rejected initially, not because the writing was bad but because of how it would not fit in their line. I asked her if I could make changes and resend. She said yes. In the shower one morning (I pray a lot in the shower) the Lord showed me I needed to tell the story in three novels. Thus the series. Barbara looked at the proposals and loved them.

I'm not posting this to toot my own horn. I am nobody special. I just want to share my testimony and hope it encourages you to look at rejection in a different light. Rejections are stepping stones to something better. When an agent or publisher turns you down, tell yourself they were not the right fit for you and move on. Commit your work to the Lord and He will direct your path.

Rita Gerlach

Friday, June 11, 2010


This might be a lot of fun and also help with a visual for book covers. The titles for the three novels in the 'Daughters of the Potomac Series' and the name of the heroines in each are the following.

Before the Scarlet Dawn
Eliza Breeze Morgan

Beside Two Rivers
Darcy Morgan

Beyond the Valley

Here are some images of movie actresses past and present that fit the mental images I have of my heroines. Vote for the ones you think would best fit the title and name.

After the Contract....

Last week, I officially signed the book series contract with Abingdon Press. Whahoo! There were a few changes made that were all wonderful, generous, and in the best interest of both parties. For those of you not yet published, I want to encourage you to find a literary agent. And as with publishing, be patient for the right agent. My agent did more for me with this contract than I ever could have done on my own. She's the greatest.

Pretty soon there will be a notice in Publishers Weekly about the sale to Abingdon Press for the 'Daughters of the Potomac Series'. 

'Daughters of the Potomac' a historical novel series, sold to Abingdon Press, offers the reader a journey toward redemption, as three women search for love and acceptance in a world that would deny them both. Eliza leaves behind all she has in order to follow her heart and the man she loves into the Maryland frontier. Darcy seeks to unravel a lifetime of memories and the absence of her parents, and finally Sarah, an indentured servant, stands in the crossroads between love and duty.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Surrender the Wind Outtake ~ Mrs. Pepperdine and her daughter Henrietta meet Juleah on the road home.

Just for fun, here is a scene that was cut from Surrender the Wind. The reason being it stalled the story. It is a fact aspiring writers must know, that once your book is accepted it will go through several rounds of edits. You may not want anyone to touch your writing, but you have to. You must trust your editor. So, save your outtakes. You may use them in another book later.

* * * *

Her mother gathered her younger children to the carriage door.
“I shall walk home,” Juleah told her. “It is a fine day.”
She brought her wide-brimmed hat down closer to shade her eyes from the brilliant sunlight and strolled down the tree-lined lane. Oh, no. Now, I will have to speak to them.
Geraldine Pepperdine and her daughter, Henrietta, met Juleah along the road. A basket swung from Henrietta’s arm. In it lay golden onions. Mrs. Pepperdine carried an ebony walking cane.
“Good day, Juleah.” Mrs. Pepperdine offered a broad smile. Her Pomeranian yapped and leapt at Juleah’s dress. “I have not seen you in a long while. We just saw Sir Henry’s carriage pass by. How is your family?”
          “They are well, thank you.” Juleah gave the dog a gentle push away.
          “Henrietta, doesn’t Juleah have the loveliest hat?”
Henrietta nodded. “It must have been expensive.”
“You should wear a shawl, Juleah,” said Mrs. Pepperdine. “Your skin is exposed to the sunshine.”
          Juleah hoisted the edges of her dress higher on her shoulders.
          “That’s better, dear.” Mrs. Pepperdine looked pleased with a bobble of her head.
Henrietta lifted her chin. “Mother’s advice is always correct. Young ladies of breeding and good taste often seek her opinion.”
Losing her smile, Mrs. Pepperdine’s eyes darted around. “You are out walking alone, Juleah? That is not wise.”
          “I thank you for your concern, but I am safe.”
“It is a matter of propriety. Our manservant stands but a few yards away to attend us if we should need him. I’ve just had a thought. You and your mother should join our ladies club. We eat cakes and exchange the latest news every Thursday afternoon.”
Gossip you mean. “I shall tell my mother.” Juleah went to leave, but Mrs. Pepperdine stepped alongside her.
“What has your mother been doing these days? Did she have the sitting room at Henry Chase painted? The last time I was there she said she would.”
“Yes, it is yellow now. When the sun comes through the windows, it makes the prettiest. .  .”
          “Did not I say a long time ago, that your mother should have the color changed?” Mrs. Pepperdine wiggled her head.
“You did—.”
          “I suppose yellow is a proper color for a sitting room.” She had a contemplative look on her face, as if she were staring at something far in the distance. “However, it depends on the shade. I must come and see it for myself.”
          Juleah shook her head. “I do not think that is necessary.”
          Mrs. Pepperdine wagged her gloved finger at Juleah. “Oh, but it is. Your mother values my opinion.”
          “My mother is capable on her own.”
           Mrs. Pepperdine shot her a condescending smile. “You should see the color of my sitting room. It is a lovely shade of green. Everyone comments on it. You shall see it when you and Lady Anna visit.”
          Juleah strove to maintain her composer and be polite. “I cannot say when that may be. My mother is busy these days.”
“No excuse, Juleah. Come next Thursday. I shall tell the ladies you and Lady Anna will be there. Oh, you will enjoy it.”
“Have you been ill, Juleah?” Henrietta stood by with her hands relaxed through the basket handle, her face absent of a smile, plain and lacking emotion. “You look peaked to me. Doesn’t she look peaked, Mother?”
          Mrs. Pepperdine stepped forward. “And so thin? Are you not eating and getting enough country air, dear?”
“I walk every day, Mrs. Pepperdine. I’m hardly as thin as you say.”
“It could be that Henry Chase is drafty,” Henrietta said.
Mrs. Pepperdine threw up her hands. “Indeed, Henrietta, you may be right. Drafty houses can cause ailments in the evening hours. My house, for example, is as tight as a clam. I am apt to illness, you see, and my bones ache if it is raining.”
          “I am sorry to hear it,” Juleah said. “Perhaps a soothing liniment of eucalyptus might help. My mother grows the herb and she would be happy to send you some if you would wish it.”
Mrs. Pepperdine cocked her head. “That would be generous of her. I’d love it if she sent me some, ah, . . .whatever it is called.”
Henrietta tossed in another dry remark. “We heard the new squire has paid you a call, and has an eye for you.”
Juleah lifted her brows. “Where did you hear that?”
“Oh, here and there,” Henrietta answered.
“Being a squire is an enormous responsibility,” said Mrs. Pepperdine with a drawl. “I suppose it is hard for him, seeing he is not English.”
She pulled out her hanky, wiped her nose, shoved it back into her sleeve. “I am not prejudice that he is a colonial. I hope to have him come dine at our house one evening. He must meet Henrietta, and eat from my best china. It is identical to the china at Ripley Castle in North Yorkshire. Have you been to Ripley Castle, Juleah?”
“I have not, Mrs. Pepperdine.” She took a step ahead, but Mrs. Pepperdine, Henrietta, and their pup walked alongside her.
“I have been there on several occasions,” Mrs. Pepperdine said. “That is how I know my china is practically identical to their own.”
Juleah gave her a quick smile. “I see.”
“I imagine Mr. Braxton has never dined off anything fine. More than likely wooden bowls and pewter were all he had in Virginia.” She let out a jolly giggle.
“I cannot say.”  Desperate to leave, Juleah quickened her stride.
Mrs. Pepperdine put out her hand. “I do not wish to change the subject, Juleah, but I heard Thomas threw mud on one of your neighbor’s windows. Your mother comes to his rescue too much. She has spoiled the child and he will grow up wild.”
          Juleah pressed her lips together. “I assure you, Thomas was punished.” 
“Indeed a flexible willow branch gets the point across. One mustn’t let a child sink into moral turpitude, Juleah. Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
“My mother holds to those scriptures that we are to guide children with love and understanding, and use discipline wisely.”
“She has not turned into a Methodist has she? I never bothered to ask, but I imagine her being Church of England like any good English woman should be.”
“She is. Yet, we discourse over Mr. Wesley’s sermons often.”
Mrs. Pepperdine eyes shot wide opened. “Mr. Wesley? I hope your mother realizes he has caused confusion among churchmen. What religion Mr. Braxton is I can only imagine.”
“He is devoted in his faith, ma’am.” A twig caught the edge of Juleah’s dress and snagged it. She reached down and yanked it free.
Mrs. Pepperdine shrugged. “Well, they can be whatever they please in America. Perhaps he believes nothing at all, or as the Indians do. I tell you, their new constitution with religious liberty will cause nothing but trouble. People will run amuck and there shall be heretics a plenty running about their country. People will be led astray by strange doctrines. You watch and see.”
Juleah did not like the way Mrs. Pepperdine talked about Seth. How could she assume anything, not knowing him? Irritated, she twisted one of the ribbons on her bodice so hard it reddened her finger. “You seem to know a lot about Mr. Braxton.”
“I wish I could say I have officially met him. We did see him out riding once. He’s handsome, a fine figure on a horse. I want him to meet Henrietta.”
“Yes, you told me.” Juleah glanced down the road in the hopes someone would rescue her.
Mrs. Pepperdine folded her hands together. “She’d make him a perfect wife.”
Juleah glanced at the pale reed of a girl standing beside Mrs. Pepperdine. Let her try.
“If you will excuse me, I must go on,” Juleah said, stepping away. “Good day.”
Relief seized her to be free of them.
Why do people like Mrs. Pepperdine, fail to speak a kind word? She seems to enjoy being judge and jury, analyzing, prying, making assumptions based on nothing but her own imagination.
When Juleah turned at the bend leading home, she ruminated over the potency of the words spoken to her. She paused, glanced up at the streams of sunlight pouring through the trees. Her heart repented, for she too had past judgment when she had no right. Still, she did not have to subject herself to the likes of the Pepperdines. If an invitation were forthcoming, she’d ignore it.
Juleah shook her head. “Every family has their failings, even mine . . . I shall not think of Mrs. Pepperdine and Henrietta any more today.”